Gram­mar faces

DFE wants to build three-storey block on car park

Kentish Gazette Canterbury & District - - Heading To The Wild - Ex­clu­sive by Joe Walker joe­walker@thek­m­ @Joewalker17

A gram­mar school mired in re­cent con­tro­versy now faces hav­ing its his­toric main build­ing de­mol­ished – or could miss out on a multi-mil­lion pound fund­ing pot.

Purs­es­tring hold­ers at the Depart­ment for Ed­u­ca­tion (DFE) want to pull down the “mag­nif­i­cent” art deco-style block at Si­mon Lang­ton Girls’ and build a new three-storey school on a neigh­bour­ing car park.

But school bosses want the main build­ing re­fur­bished in­stead, fear­ing the new-build will be much smaller and “com­pro­mise the qual­ity of ed­u­ca­tion” at the school.

Turn­ing down the pro­posal, how­ever, could see the Lang­ton kicked out of the Pri­or­ity School Build­ing Pro­gramme (PSBP), miss­ing out on gov­ern­ment money it needs to re­fur­bish the run­down site.

It is un­der­stood Kent County Coun­cil is back­ing the DFE plan as it would avoid hav­ing to find the funds it­self to carry out the work.

The saga is the lat­est in a tu­mul­tuous 18 months for the school, which saw a bid to con­vert to an academy scrapped ear­lier this year and for­mer head teacher Jane Robinson re­sign amid the fall­out and com­plaints about her con­duct.

Ex­ec­u­tive head teacher Matthew Bax­ter, who took over from Mrs Robinson, says the school will fight to re­tain its main block.

He said: “It’s a mag­nif­i­cent ex­am­ple of 1950s mod­ernist ar­chi­tec­ture; hand­some build­ings, well laid-out, well-lit and thought­fully land­scaped.

“A teacher de­scribed the school as a fine ex­am­ple of post-war op­ti­mism and I agree en­tirely with her.

“The build­ing is more than just an ar­chi­tec­tural state­ment. In over 30 years in the teach­ing pro­fes­sion I have not seen a school with build­ings which are so clearly fit-for-pur­pose.

“The lay­out and size of class­rooms are such that the stu­dents are ed­u­cated in spa­cious, well­lit rooms with am­ple space for move­ment and a va­ri­ety of learn­ing ac­tiv­i­ties. It is dis­ap­point­ing to ob­serve a school in such poor re­pair and it seems es­sen­tial re­pairs have been ne­glected in the ex­pec­ta­tion of a ‘new school’ be­ing built.”

The school wants to use the DFE money to re­fur­bish the original build­ing, which was her­alded in the ar­chi­tec­tural world when it was built after the Sec­ond World War. Now it is in need of re­pair, with leak­ing roofs, crum­bling walls and buck­led win­dows which fail to keep the heat in dur­ing win­ter.

A sur­vey com­mis­sioned by the school put the cost of the work in the re­gion of £6m to £8m, with £2m more needed to

Si­mon Lang­ton Girls’ School gover­nors want to pre­serve and re­fur­bish, rather than de­mol­ish, school build­ings

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